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Authentic Joy

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The Gospel teaches us that those blessed with earthly riches should strive to share their riches with our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. Sometimes, the riches are an abundance of food and clothing; other times, it is the wisdom and grace to recognize a purpose God placed on our hearts. For three young women from our archdiocese, Katherine Walton, Kirstyn Lee and Ella Kleinhenz, their riches lie in the solid faith foundation that carried them through their lives. They hope to use that foundation to be witnesses of hope for others through NET Ministries.

Founded in 1981 in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, NET has touched over 2 million youth and young adults through retreats and discipleship. NET missionaries must complete an application and attend a discernment weekend to ensure they are ready to accept the commitment.

“Growing up, I always attended mini- retreats and walked away with my faith on fire,” said Lee, “But life always got busy, and slowly, the fire stopped burning so strongly.”

Lee struggled through her freshman year of college. Her mother suggested she take a sabbatical and refocus her energy on the retreats that once fueled her faith and earthly purpose. Lee first rejected the idea, but through prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, she checked out NET’s website.

“I saw the authentic joy that people had. I didn’t know how to get that joy, but I knew I wanted it.”

Ask Katherine Walton about NET Ministries and she confidently says she owes her life to it. “My parents met at NET and served as missionaries 30 years ago. I am honored to follow in their footsteps.”

Initially determined to join NET right after high school, through prayer Walton knew God wanted her to experience college first. “He knew that to go from being homeschooled and with my family 24/7, to leaving my family completely would be hard.”

Once approved to join NET as a missionary, young adults leave for nine months. Their service begins with training to fuel their faith and prepare them for the unconventional lifestyle of traveling in a van and staying with numerous host families along the way.

That nomadic lifestyle is something Ella Kleinhenz never saw for herself. “Growing up, I was always a homebody. So when I told my parents I wanted to travel across the country as a NET missionary, they were definitely shocked.”

She credits her decision to Mary’s intercession, “In college, I was struggling with trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I attended a retreat and met a teen who took a break from college to do missionary work. The more I prayed to Mary about if it would be right for me, the more peace I began to feel. I

Now in their second year of service, the young women reflected on unique moments of grace that have impacted their lives. Walton recalls praying over a group during a youth retreat when she noticed a young girl had distanced herself and was kneeling between pews to write on a paper.

“When I approached her and asked if she had any intentions I could pray over, she handed me a letter about how life experiences had left her struggling to love others. Throughout our time together, it struck me that young

they just need to feel loved. That moment fundamentally changed the way I led small groups.”

Kleinhenz said the most impactful missionary moment for her came when she witnessed a young teen confront a bully.

“We were doing an exercise with a group in which they had to carry around rocks that represented their struggles and burdens. At the end of the day, as they were placing them at the foot of the cross, I noticed one girl crying. She admitted she had been bullied and was struggling to let it go and offer forgiveness.” The young man who hurt her was also at the retreat in another group, and she decided to finally approach him. The exchange was grace-filled and ended with a hug. “There have been times where I wondered if all of my efforts were making a difference. God showed that day that they truly were.”

For Lee, her pivotal moment came when the Holy Spirit helped her guide a teen struggling with prayer. “She told me she had all of these things that were holding her back from praying with her whole heart. I asked for the Holy Spirit to intercede because I, too, had been struggling with deep, meaningful prayer.” Lee asked the teen to imagine she was holding a rope. Tied to the end of that rope is a cinder block, and her hands are calloused and bleeding from pulling that heavy rope every day. “Then I said to her ‘All you have to do is let go. All those wounds will heal. All that weight will be released if you just let go,’ and I was in awe. Those weren’t my words but they have forever impacted my life.”

Through NET, these three young women are sharing their joy and riches with others by the power of evangelism. Please pray for them as they continue opening young hearts and minds to Christ’s love and to the community of the Church. For more information on NET Ministries, visit netusa.org.

This article appeared in the November 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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